United States wants written apology from Israel

The United States has demanded a written apology from Israel and tighter restrictions on Israeli weapons exports over arms sales to China. The U.S. put it as conditions for lifting military sanctions against its Mideast ally, an Israeli daily reported Wednesday.

Israel and the Pentagon have been locked in talks over Israel's planned sale to China of spare parts for Harpy drone aircraft. The Bush administration objects on the grounds it would upgrade China's anti-radar aircraft, says the AP.

The Haaretz daily said Wednesday that the latest tensions forced Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to postpone a trip to Washington earlier this month. The trip was meant to reach an agreement on future arms sales to China and other countries and end the dispute.

Security officials had at the time said the trip's delay was due to escalating Gaza Strip violence and a Palestinian suicide attack that killed five Israelis. But defense officials Wednesday confirmed the trip was called off because of continued disagreements with the U.S.

Mofaz had been widely expected to wrap up a memorandum of understanding with Washington over future Israeli arms sales. The document was expected to object to certain sales of strategic materials, but not to competition with U.S. industry.

Haaretz said that the Bush administration has since made harsher demands as an "indirect way of rejecting a request by Mofaz to end the crisis and rescind the penalties."

It said the U.S. also wants the Israeli parliament to approve legislation within 18 months tightening oversight of military exports, and a written apology from Israel and Mofaz as conditions for lifting sanctions. The sanctions have reportedly included halting cooperation on several projects and freezing delivery of sensitive equipment.

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